Thursday, December 31, 2015

Saying Goodbye

It will take me a while to pull together 16 years worth of memories, but I found this tonight as I was compiling her life and it made me smile. 

Katy, I've looked for you this afternoon by my chair, by my bed, in the bathroom where you'd always join me if I didn't shut the door, when I flipped my hair over to dry it, when we dropped food on the kitchen floor making dinner tonight, when Nick sneezed and there was no one to bark, when a cat ran into the room and there was no one to herd him. 

I have a Katy-sized-hole in my heart tonight. 

But I am so, so grateful we found you in the Bryan shelter all those years ago. That Nick and Sam begged us to bring you home. 

You joined the family the same week as Sam's 6th birthday, and the same week as 9/11. When the whole world seemed to spin out of control, you were there with your silly self and that gigantic tongue to love us. 

When Ian went deaf, you were his connection to us. You'd alert him to our calls. You missed him when he passed. 

Evan misses you now. 

You put up with all the kids' shenanigans, in all the photos of our birthdays and Christmases and Thanksgivings, you are there. 

My children grew up with you. 

When you moved with us from the only home you'd ever known to a new one Colorado, you raced up the stairs and got stuck. You had to figure out how to walk down the stairs a little slower, but it didn't take you long. By the next day, it was like you'd been doing it your whole life. 

You loved the snow. You loved going on walks and chasing any ball we'd throw. 

You tolerated the cats. That's about all I could ask. 

You took Evan in and taught him the ropes. I was doing the math. We had Ian as an only dog for 4 years before you joined us. And we had the two of you together for 5. We had you as an only dog for 4 years before Evan joined us. And we had the two of you together for 5.

When you could no longer tolerate walks with us, you waited at the door for our return. Whenever we'd go anywhere, Evan would hide upstairs, but you? You would plop right down in front of the front door and stand guard. 

Until you went deaf, you'd bark at every doorbell and every dog walking outside on the street when the windows were open. 

You made me crazy with your barking. Your herding cats. You absolute stubbornness. 

You were never sick. You ate an entire pound of fudge and didn't even burp. 

It was that stubbornness that kept you going. You learned how to bunny hop both back feet down the stairs when your arthritis wouldn't let you move them individually. You kept going. 

Until yesterday. 

When you couldn't get up the stairs, no matter how much coaxing, we knew. We spent the day helping you, carrying you up, keeping a heating pad on your hips, loving you, all of us surrounding you. When I turned off the lights last night, you were whining. You never whine. Never complain. I knew. I gave you a pain pill and comforted you until you quieted. 

This morning, you couldn't get up. You couldn't go down the stairs. I carried you outside and watched you take a few steps to go potty and start panting. You hobbled back inside and sat down right inside the door, unable to keep going. 

You were so tired.


 We carried you upstairs and made the call for the house visit. I'm so grateful we didn't have to carry you to the vet with all the strange smells and sterile tables.

Right before the vet was scheduled to call at noon, you were whining and we took you out one last time. I stepped out to coax you, and Evan found a ball. Even though you could barely stand, you weren't about to get left out. I took the last photo I'll ever take of you standing behind Evan, waiting for him to move first.

We carried back upstairs, the ball still in your mouth.  


When the vet came, she was very kind and gentle with you, and us, examined you, told us your loss of mobility, the panting, the thirst, the enlarged lymph nodes that indicated lymphoma, that it was time. As much as we might want to carry you in and out just so we could keep you near a little longer, it was time. She gave you a shot that let you fall deep asleep. Right before, Nick pulled out your beloved kitty treats, the ones I would give you each night, and you nibbled away from each of us.

And when you were fast asleep, Evan cuddled up next to you. 


Of course, knowing how stubborn you are, you weren't letting go. The vet tried every vein she could find, had to try twice in your heart before you finally passed. She said in her ten years, she'd never seen that. That she'd had to give you enough for a pony. Even amidst our grief, we were smiling at your tenacity. 

The vet left to give us our last few moments with you. And we wrapped you in a soft blanket and escorted you on your stretcher and watched her drive away. 

And my heart is broken tonight. The year is ending within the hour and the tears keep falling. 

It is the price, the deep, steep price of your unconditional love. I'll happily pay it. I am so grateful and deeply humbled that we were privileged to have you in our lives to love us for 15 years. 

I love you, Katygirl. Run free.

We are early-to-bedders at our house--
I guess I'm the first to retire.
And as I'd leave the room he'd look at me
And get up from his place by the fire.

He knew where the tennis balls were upstairs,
And I'd give him one for a while.
He would push it under the bed with his nose
And I'd fish it out with a smile.

And before very long
He'd tire of the ball
And be asleep in his corner
In no time at all.

And there were nights when I'd feel him
Climb upon our bed
And lie between us,
And I'd pat his head.

And there were nights when I'd feel this stare
And I'd wake up and he'd be sitting there
And I reach out my hand and stroke his hair.
And sometimes I'd feel him sigh
and I think I know the reason why.

He would wake up at night
And he would have this fear
Of the dark, of life, of lots of things,
And he'd be glad to have me near.


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